Habush Habush and Rottier

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Epic's Principles, Part 10

Epic's 13 principles
1. Do not go public.
2. Do not be acquired.
3. Expectations = reality.
4. Keep commitments.
5. Be frugal.
6. Have standards. Don't do deals.
7. Create innovative and helpful products.
8. Have fun with customers.
9. Follow processes. Find root causes. Fix processes.
10. Don't take on debt for operations, no matter how good the deal.
11. Focus on competency. Do not tolerate mediocrity. 
12. Teach philosophy and culture.
13. If you disagree, dissent. Once decided, support.

We've arrived at the final installment, and the one I'm least qualified to write about, as my tenure at Epic predates this principle.

Business books describing streamlined, high-functioning teams or companies generally agree that there is value in hearing all viewpoints regarding a given issue. Leaders don't always have the best view of what's happening on the ground, and smart leaders like to know if they're rapidly progressing to a cliff. Also, a team cannot be high-functioning if its members are working at cross purposes. Once the decision-makers have had their say, the team must unify their efforts. This is a sound business principle, and a good idea.

However, this requires that leaders be able to admit that they're wrong. I don't think Epic's leadership has that ability. Those stillborn ideas that I remember from staff meetings were never spoken of again, and no documentation existed in the first place. I can't imagine any of the power holders at Epic admitting that they thought developing a Farmville-esque Facebook game about healthy kids* was a good idea. For dissent to be valuable, leaders have to listen to it, and to listen to it means they have to acknowledge that they may be wrong. Epic's culture doesn't permit the rank and file to question authority.

I saw this article about the Pontiac Aztek, and it seems appropriate.

The 13th principle is a good goal, but I don't see how Epic can actually follow it--they'd have to change a lot about their culture and philosophy to make it happen. It's admirable that Epic has considered it, and that Epic is encouraging it (at least on paper), but I don't see their cultural inertia changing directions any time soon. On behalf of all current and future Epic employees, I'd love to be proved wrong here.

*I remember Judy talking about this idea several times over a period of a couple months.